Philadelphia, often translated as the City of Brotherly Love, can now boast another citizen whose whole life is described by that greek word: philia (the love of family, neighbors, brothers, sisters): Judy Wicks. 100% good will, she movingly describes her pathway to success as a businesswoman through collaboration, not competition, through responding immediately to cries of need once understood and by clarifying over and again her mission to serve: her friends, her community, her colleagues and her brothers and sisters around the globe, while having fun! This is not just an easy read with great story-telling, but a wake-up call that may become a "shot heard 'round the world." This time a shot of business based philia... in the spirit of Philadelphia.
Judy's decision to focus on place in some ways limited her "success" in business. She and her first husband started the Free People's Store together in the early '70's with used crates from Chinatown full of cheap tie-dyed t-shirts. After she bravely exited rather than be sidelined by the competitive business approach, her husband pushed the little store to the max as it grew into Urban Outfitters, now with a $5.8B market cap, (trading over two million shares yesterday), while Judy stayed put expanding her White Dog Café and Black Cat sustainable gift shop brownstone by brownstone. Did she make a mistake? Hardly. In terms of personal and shared joy and extraordinary influence she got just what she wanted. She has had and will continue to enjoy a higher level of fulfillment due to her many deeply intuitive choices, and now will make her mark because of this memoir, which is written with the same combination of fun creative flare and disciplined attention to detail with which she approaches all aspects of her life.
Jamie Gauthier, the new Executive Director of the Sustainable Business Network of Philadelphia or SBN, powerfully stated at Judy's book launch: Judy is a builder on every level. Her charming story begins with huts she built and rebuilt each spring in the woods behind her house, growing in sophistication as she grew from 9 to 18. Then when she went to school and all her assumptions regarding America came into question she stopped building physical huts but began her training through the trials of life to become the draftswoman of a new economy. She had assumed like most of us from the '60's, that the sense of community (or philia) she had experienced in her small town was the basis for this great country. Little by little, as strip malls took over and grocery stores no longer served as community centers, she grew her knowledge and understanding into a foundation for a much greater hut: a platform for a new way of succeeding in business through sharing, local sourcing and an orientation of service on all levels, from the dirt to the sky and throughout the shared waters and species of this planet, always starting from wherever the business is.
Framed by natural white blond hair, Judy's is the face of the "local living economy" a phrase she coined with David Korten ( author of When Corporations Ruled the World ). Together they spearheaded the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies or BALLE (sounds like a beach vacation!). Starting in Philadelphia with SBN, this network that celebrates what Judy now calls localism (as in Local First! campaigns around the country) has grown to almost 500 "sustainable" businesses in Philadelphia, but more importantly to around 90 other US communities each with their own local character. This may not be mentioned on MarketWatch yet, but the movement is growing like CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) which first came to this country from Europe in 1985 with two farms, and is now a successful business model for hundreds of communities around the country; BALLE is a force to be reckoned with. Big box retailers are trying the darndest to look like local community centers with local produce etc. But everyone knows where the money goes: out of the community! BALLE is becoming the free association of the new economy and Yes! Magazine their media sponsor.
The networks connected to Judy's passion to build community through business are endless. Mayor Bloomberg's challenge to find the most innovative and pragmatic cities just awarded a million dollars to Philadelphia, one of 6 out of 300 cities applying! The hidden story is that the application was developed by Good Company Group, an incubator of sustainable businesses which had merged with Green Village Philadelphia, an offshoot of SBN.
When SBN started, Judy approved a proposal of mine to initiate monthly conversations called The Circle of Entrepreneurs, for lonely entrepreneurs to tell their stories and get peer feedback, some good local food in an artistic setting and find ways to collaborate. The idea was sparked by Benjamin Franklin's famous conversation circles, starting with the Junta and the Leather Aprons...local crafts people who solved the community's problems together... volunteer fire departments, a free library, side-walks and more resulted. Judy's ancestors were farmers in Lancaster County and may well have known Benjamin Franklin. And like Franklin, Philadelphia's famous global/local citizen, Judy's localist wit and wisdom will continue to make a difference globally.